McAfee Security-as-a-Service review

An easy to use web interface fails to make up for shockingly poor defence against malware

20 Nov 2012
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
inc VAT

Page 1 of 3McAfee Security-as-a-Service review


McAfee's Security as a Service didn't perform at all well in our tests, producing one of the lowest accuracy scores we've seen. In 100 rounds of testing, the software was compromised 47 times. It only blocked 42% of malicious programs, neutralising another 11% after they'd made it on to the system. It did little better in our false positive tests, blocking 9 benign programs and popping up 25 warnings, although this level of paranoia isn't necessarily a problem in a business environment. More irritating is the firewall that by default asks permission for every program it encounters, even such obviously benign and commonplace applications as Microsoft Internet Explorer. To avoid this, it’s a good idea to apply an administrator-defined set of firewall rules across your user groups.

To its credit, McAfee SaaS has plenty of features and a versatile web interface. Once you've registered for a SaaS account, you'll be sent a download link for the desktop client, but you can also install it directly from the web interface. You can download the anti-virus, firewall and browser protection modules individually or as a single file and installation options include direct installation to the PC you're currently using, a direct download URL for any PC and a push installation utility for deployment across your entire network. The client software is compatible with Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8 and Server 2008.

McAfee SaaS web interface

The client interface is as simple and streamlined as you could hope for. Its clean black and white window lets you know your PC is secure and informs you of the status of four key modules: virus protection, firewall, browser protection and the program's channel of communication with the online SecurityCenter. The only interactive component is a pull-down action menu at the top right corner, which lets users view a list of the applications that have tried to access the internet from your PC, set the network connection as trusted or untrusted, carry out a manual security scan or log in an administrator, although the latter doesn't provide any extra features in the program's default mode.

This is because most of the administrator functions are web-based. A dashboard tab shows you any alerts in need of immediate attention and provides an overview of the protection status of the desktop clients and recent activity. You can also add a variety of other widgets to provide a convenient view of almost any module you can think of, from email protection to a list of which computer on your network has attempted to access the greatest number of blocked sites.

McAfee desktop client

The Computers tab lets you view the status of all the machines you're protecting, add them to groups and view reports for each and the Reports tab provides convenient shortcuts to history and logs for your entire network of clients. The Policies tab gives you control over exactly how McAfee's security client will behave on your users' machines, including update frequency, access to a full console, scan scheduling and the ability to switch from a user-configured firewall to an administrator configured firewall. We strongly recommend making the latter change. You can also change the client's sensitivity to spyware and potentially unwanted programs and enable browser protection for client systems. The web interface also provides controls to help you synchronise your security software across an Active Directory system and add administrators for specified groups of systems.

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